Wednesday, November 28, 2012

President Obama should consider Retired Admiral Mullen as Secretary of Defense.

He took on Pakistan and established a global recognition of the Haqquani Network. He put them on the map. That is not a minor accomplishment.

...The USO also honored (click here) the 17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, USN (Ret) and Mrs. Deborah Mullen as this year’s Spirit of the USO Honorees. The Mullens were honored for their illustrious military career and staunch support of troops and military families. They were surprised by a special tribute video by entertainer and USO tour veteran Robin Williams.
“We are here to celebrate two very dear friends of mine. Not just because they are friends of mine but because of their extraordinary dedication and service to our troops and their families both here and abroad. Admiral Mike Mullen and his wife Deborah Mullen or, as I refer, to her after thousands and thousands of miles of traveling together, ‘Mom,’” Williams said. “We visited five continents on four USO Chairman Holiday tours, the emotional highs and lows of these trips were remarkable each trip was a unique experience. … So Chairman and Mrs. Mullen, I thank you for your leadership, commitment, service and your friendship.”
Mrs. Mullen said she was humbled by the USO award, “It’s an honor for us to be recognized with the Spirit of the USO Award, but really, when you think about it, the heart and the soul and the spirit are really all the staff and volunteers, who are serving around the world, around the clock and at installations and airports. They’re in harm’s way and they’re the ones really we need to recognize and never forget their selfless work that they do on behalf of our troops, our families and the families of the fallen.”
Admiral Mullen reflected on his deep connection with the USO. “We’ve watched up closely and very personally the USO for decades, affect our lives, but more importantly, affect the lives of those we care about the most, both in peace and in war and at the most difficult times and if I were going to sum it up in so many ways, it would be to bring that smile, that support, that little piece of home into the hearts and souls of those who serve around the world and do so, so nobly, for so long.”...

One has to know the objection to Susan Rice is pure politics realizing her relationship to TransCanada.

To begin the Secretary of State is more than a pipeline carrying Oil Sludge from Canada. In addition, I trust Ambassador Rice to realize how important the topic of global warming is to President Obama. One of the reasons stated in objection to the pipeline from this administration is the dangers of proliferating carbon dioxide as an acceptable by-product in energy production in the USA.
Ms. Rice would have to recuse herself from the proceedings regarding the pipeline. That reality is far more interesting to me than her conflict of interest.
...Rice's holdings in TransCanada Corp., (click here) valued at between $300,000 and $600,000, are listed in a financial disclosure report for 2011 that was filed earlier this year.
The holdings open up Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to criticism from environmentalists at a time when she’s already under fire from Republicans over her descriptions of the attack on U.S. diplomats in Benghazi, Libya.
Green activists are strongly pushing the Obama administration to reject TransCanada’s proposal for the pipeline that would bring oil from Canadian tar sands projects to Gulf Coast refineries....

Susan Collins is being ridiculous about Ambassador Rice and she knows it.

When Senator Collins states she holds Ambassador Rice responsible for the bombings in 1998 when she was Assistant Secretary of African Affairs, it is like saying the current Assistant Secretary of African Affairs should be held responsible for the attacks in Benghazi.

The lack of security of the consulates across Africa has a long history. Much of it is due to lack of funding and it is the Republicans with the most significant insults to the funding issue and the poor security to our consulates. At least that is according to a highly regarded former ambassador.

The African continent has been a victim of one kind of rebel group or another for decades, since guns were invented. So, the reality violence against American embassies and consulates becomes reality is not new to our State Department.

The one person with a great deal of credibility who spoke to the lack of security in Nairobi was Ambassador Bushnell. She has an extensive career in foreign relations. She fought for the stability of Rwanda before the genocide and continued to fight to stop it once it began. She was in Kenya when the dual bombing took place. It was her point of view the embassy was not secure, but, as noted below that was nothing the USA concerned itself with.

JGH:  There seems to be such a fine line (click here) between the incredible
need for personal diplomacy and the safety of Foreign Service officers.  How can it be defined?

PB: It comes down to defining what we, as a country, stand for.
I have not seen that defined either by the current administration or by
our presidential candidates.   The lack of an articulation of the values
on which we base our foreign policy makes it difficult to rationalize
decisions, including the security risks.  I do not think that fighting terrorists is a value; it may be an imperative, but that is different.  If it is
a world at peace we are seeking, then we would likely be creating a
different range of policies and strategies.  For example, if the U.S.
seriously articulated the value of peace in the world, we could create
a range of strategies to have diplomats promote peacemakers, rather
than relying so heavily on our military to train warriors, as we are
doing now.  Without a definition of what we stand for as a country, it
is hard to create coherent policies or correctly balance the need for
safety and outreach in a way people can understand.

JGH: Have we learned anything, as a country or as a State
Department, in the decade since the bombing?

PB:  As an organization, we have learned a lot.  I think Aug. 7,
1998, was the State Department’s 9/11.  I know that ambassadors
and employees are far less likely to complain about security restrictions.  One of the differences that the East Africa bombings created was a shift in attitude about the responsibility of department leadership —
from the idea that our leadership doesn’t owe us anything because we
choose to be at a post, to:  By God, they do owe us something because
we have seen colleagues die and we could die, too.
As a country, unfortunately, we didn’t really pay any attention to
the bombings in East Africa.  That changed, of course, on Sept. 11,

Former Ambassador Bushnell also has an extensive oral history of her life online. The excerpts regarding her life as Ambassador at the time of the dual bombings is below:

Q: When it's done by faxes and e-mail, yeah. (click here)

BUSHNELL: Right. You may remember Newt Gingrich and the Congress closed the federal government a couple of times. Agencies were starved of funding across the board. Needless to say, there was no money for security. Funding provided in the aftermath of the bombing of our embassy in Beirut in the '80 that created new building standards for embassies and brought in greater numbers of diplomatic security officer dried up.

As an answer to lack of funding, State Department stopped talking about need. For example, when we had inadequate staff to fill positions, State eliminated the positions, so we no longer can talk about the need. If there's no money for security, then let's not talk about security needs. The fact of increasing concern at the embassy about crime and violence was irrelevant in Washington. So was the condition of our building....

...I had learned before I got to Nairobi that the Foreign Buildings Operation, now Overseas Building Operations, was planning to a $4-7 million renovation of this building that was unsafe and much too small for us. Having spent three years in African Affairs dealing with an assortment of disasters, I thought it was dumb to invest more capital in a building that would never be considered safe. There just was no way to protect the building. I suggested that FBO sell the building and pool the proceeds with the money proposed for the renovations to buy a new site. Washington's response was somewhere between "are you nuts?! and get out of the way, the renovation train has already left the station."

Q: Did your security office or the apparatus in charge of that back in Washington pay any attention to the problem?

BUSHNELL: Our security officer, for whom I had a great deal of respect, understood the issue, as did the entire Country Team.

Q: Now, just to get a little feel for this, had any incidents happened, like the Khobar towers, or was that later?

BUSHNELL: The terrorist attack on Khobar Towers had already occurred but terrorism was virtually unknown in Kenya.

Q: Again, we're setting the stage. Did Osama Bin Laden or al Qaeda or the Taliban or anything like that cross your radar much?

BUSHNELL: I think I mentioned before that Nairobi was a favorite spot for a number of characters and groups. As ambassador I was told there was also an al Qaeda cell in Nairobi and that interested the intel community in Washington. Bin Laden at the time was considered a terrorist financier, not an activist, at least so far as I was told. I had been told in Washington that we wanted to disrupt his activities, which seemed pretty sensible and benign to me. I was not told that a special unit had been established to watch bin Laden's activities, nor that there was a secret indictment against him because of his hand in shooting down the black hawk helicopter. I was aware that a "walk in" had warned us in December 1997 that the embassy may be bombed but I was assured that the guy had done the same thing a number of times to other embassies in Africa and that he was considered "a flake."...

Senator Collins really should be ashamed for her roll in this scandal. Collins knows the reality of our foreign service and if she doesn't then she should not be speaking so freely. Not every US embassy was secured with $1.3 billion as was spent in Iraq. 

The Republicans are 'running game' on the President. They are also trying to distract from the fiscal changes the President wants to make to protect 98 percent of the country from increased costs to their paychecks as of midnight on New Years Eve.

A product of the 2010 elections.

Is Ayotte a Tea Party? Her newness to the Senate is very obvious. Being elected to federal office is far different than being AG of New Hampshire. The realities require backbone.
...Ayotte has the backing of former vice presidential candidate (click here) and tea party doyenne Sarah Palin, yet aides note that she has maintained a sense of moderate appeal in ways that other conservatives, such as Nevada’s Sharron Angle and Delaware’s Christine O’Donnell, have not.
A 42-year-old mother of two and wife of an Iraq War veteran, Ayotte’s personal background is attractive to Senate GOP leaders who want a fresh face to help boost their message strategy next year.
“The addition of a Republican woman from New England who’s young, who’s a mom,” one senior GOP aide said, “all of these things broaden the Republican party’s appeal and say to different segments of the population, ‘This party has folks in it that are just like you.’”...
Ayotte is a Sarah darling. Is there anything else anyone needs to understand here? She is good cover for the party screaming memes from South Carolina and Arizona. Their politicking is inappropriate and they are seeking a 'wedge issue.' I am sure the media enjoys the circus for their own purposes.

Ayotte can take credit for the budget cuts to the State Department, too. So, maybe the guilt is overwhelming.

The State Department (click here) is still reeling from deep cuts made by Senate and House appropriations panels to the Obama administration’s budget requests for next year, with some officials warning of national security risks.
Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state in its Bureau of Political Military Affairs, told a meeting last week of the Center for New American Security that the hefty cuts will compromise national security. He noted that the 2012 funding bill for State Department and foreign operations was cut 8 percent by the full Senate Appropriations Committee and a whopping 18 percent by the House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations subcommittee....
I am sure this will enter the State Department investigation as well to understand if the Regional Security Officers were already measuring their expenses with impending 2012 budgets.

And for those who find anecdotal conclusive, that is what brought about the wrongful and immoral war in Iraq. It just isn't evidence that has any brevity without solid intelligence to determine the link to national security. It is why Ms. Ayotte is more dangerous to the USA national security than a UN Ambassador working with USA intelligence talking points.


Kelly Ayotte releases an al Qaeda turd blossom.

The thing is this, the focus of Ms. Ayotte is the fact Ambassador Rice is a problem in stating al Qaeda has been decimated. Ambassador Rice was backed in her assertions by others, including the USA Defense Secretary. The only difference is that Secretary Panetta is not a potential candidate for Secretary of State. Who is inconsistent and irrelevant now, Ms. Ayotte? It is witch hunt only the Republicans are so invested in it they can't find the door out of the circus.


11/21/12 9:12 AM EST

Leon Panetta: Al Qaeda’s leadership ‘decimated’ (click here)

Ever since United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice used “decimate” to describe Al Qaeda in September, Republicans have been crying foul: The terrorist organization cannot be decimated if it’s also behind the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Now, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is weighing in. Al Qaeda’s leadership has been decimated, if not the organization itself, he declared Tuesday night.
Speaking at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, Panetta qualified Rice’s statement that has come under fierce scrutiny from Republicans on Capitol Hill.
“Over the last few years, Al Qaeda’s leadership ranks have been decimated. This includes the loss of four of Al Qaeda’s five top leaders in the last two and a half years alone — Osama bin Laden, Sheikh Saeed al-Masri, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman and Abu Yahya al-Libi,” Panetta said.
The terrorist organization has not been eliminated and the administration knows this, Panetta said. “We have slowed the primary cancer — but we know that the cancer has metastasized to other parts of the global body.”...

Ms. Ayotte and her buddies are more of a national security issue than Ambassador Rice ever could be.

November 28, 2012
...Pakistan says 35,000 people have been killed (click here) as a result of terrorism since the 9/11 attacks and the 2001 US-led invasion of neighbouring Afghanistan....

...“The cabinet today approved the National Counter-Terrorism Authority Bill the need for which has been felt for a long time,” Kaira told reporters after a regular cabinet meeting.
To come into effect the bill needs to be approved by parliament and signed into law by President Asif Ali Zardari.
Kaira said the new authority would “devise policies and improve coordination among provincial governments and intelligence agencies” as well as “research and devise long-term policies to defeat” the terrorist mindset....

PaKistan has a long way to go and the Haqqani Network is one of the hurdles it faces. Haqqani is not al Qaeda, in case Ms. Ayotte didn't know that.

ISLAMABAD | Tue Nov 6, 2012 8:20am EST
(Reuters) - Pakistan is already cracking down (click here) on the Haqqani network and does not need to impose extra measures following the group's addition to the U.N.'s blacklist, a government spokesman said on Tuesday.
The U.N. Security Council's Taliban sanctions committee on Monday added the Pakistan-based group, accused of high-profile attacks in Afghanistan, to its sanctions list.
The action obliges all U.N. members to implement an asset freeze, travel ban and arms embargo for the Haqqani network.
"The three elements of the ban -- arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban -- are all already in place in Pakistan," Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira told Reuters....

There are many issues with violence coming from Pakistan into Afghanistan. But, the truth of the matter is al Qaeda has been decimated in the region. Not that they don't still strive to exist and carry power over governments and people, but, their ability is being and has been dismantled. The deaths of al Qaeda in the region is considerable. There is no disputing that. So, where Ayotte gets the nerve to actually try to start the Bush War on Terror all over again is beyond legitimacy.

Nov. 28, 2012, 8:42 AM
Geoffrey Ingersoll
The well-trained, well-equipped attackers (click here) that breached the wall of the biggest U.S.-U.K. base in Helmand Province several months ago may have been trained in Pakistan, according to a USA Today report....

Now, there is a problem in Yemen. But, for the most part Yemen is the last strong hold of al Qaeda. The Saudis are being targeted globally and their ambassador in Yemen was killed today. If one recalls the ambassador in the USA was a target not long ago.

'The Last Refuge': Yemen, Al-Qaida And The U.S. (click here)

November 27, 201211:00 AM
...According to Gregory Johnsen, a journalist who has covered Yemen and Islamic insurgency in the Middle East extensively, al-Qaida's presence has tripled in size within Yemen over the past three years. Johnsen charts this growing influence on the country in his new book, The Last Refuge: Yemen, al-Qaeda, and America's War in Arabia.
Al-Qaida's approach to gain support in Yemen has been to pit the country's interests against those of the West, particularly the United States....

Yemen was a focus of Former General Petraeus and he continued that focus as CIA Director. I believe it was he that first engaged drones in Yemen.

I don't know about Ayotte and her determination as to the potential of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, but, 200 dead in a year is not a bad record.

  • 2:44 PM
    ...29 dead in a little over a week. (click here) Nearly 200 gone this year. The White House is stepping up its campaign of drone attacks in Yemen, with four strikes in eight days. And not even the slaying of 10 civilians over the weekend seems to have slowed the pace in the United States’ secretive, undeclared war.
  • At this week’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, you’ll hear lots of talk about the Obama administration’s pursuit of al-Qaida and its allies — including, of course, the raid that ultimately took out Osama bin Laden. But the hottest battlefield in this worldwide conflict isn’t likely to receive much attention. It’s a shame, because the fight in Yemen is one that demands discussion. Not only does the White House consider al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula to be the extremist group most likely to strike in the United States. But the American response to that threat was been widely questioned by regional experts, who wonder whether U.S. drones and commandos aren’t being duped into fighting on one side of a civil war....

    One might recall there is a real legitimacy for the USA in Yemen as the underwear bomber came from this region. Right? So, there is a reason and not simply a whim why our drones are there.

    I think the Saudi death in Yemen is being blamed on al Qaeda, but, it is not confirmed at this point. Military official, not an ambassador.

    Saudi Military Official Killed by Armed Men in Yemen, SPA Says (click here)

    By Deema Almashabi & Mohammed Hatem 

    Nov 28, 2012 8:37 AM ET
    Gunmen killed a Saudi Arabian military official (click here) in Yemen after he left his house with a bodyguard, the Saudi Press Agency said, citing an unidentified official with the kingdom’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
    The Yemeni bodyguard of Saudi Sergeant Khalid al-Onizi was also killed in the attack by two gunmen in the capital Sana’a, the official SPA said.
    This was the second assault on a Saudi official in Yemen this year. In March, unidentified gunmen kidnapped Abdullah al- Khalidi, Saudi Arabia’s deputy consul in the Yemeni port city of Aden. In August, Al Jazeera television reported that he was released by suspected al-Qaeda militants.
    Last month, a U.S. embassy security official in Sana’a was shot and killed by an unidentified gunman. Yemen, which borders Saudi Arabia and Oman, has been battling militants from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula with U.S. military support....
    US Embassies are not necessarily secured by Americans and that was the case here. If the USA is being aggressive in killing al Qaeda and extremists in Yemen, there will be a backlash. I suspect that is what this was.

    Thursday, 11 October 2012 09:07 EDT
    A masked gunman assassinated (click here) a Yemeni security official who worked for the US embassy in a drive-by shooting near his home in the capital Sana'a on Thursday, officials said.
    Yemeni officials said the killing bore the hallmarks of an attack by the al-Qaida offshoot in Yemen, but it was too early to determine whether the group was behind it....

    So, the focus of al Qaeda by Former CIA Director Petraeus as a potential with Libya was directly related to his understanding of the dynamics within Yemen. This presence of al Qaeda in Yemen is not new. As a matter of fact, I don't recall al Qaeda being among those involved with the USA Consulate in Benghazi.

    I raise that doubt because the people involved with Benghazi were Salafists. That is my understanding. These are the folks that want to destroy the pyramids in Egypt. The idea of destroying icons of civilization and religion is not alien to al Qaeda. It has been noted before with Buddist statues. I think I have that right. Buddists. Regardless, we have witnessed this focus on destroying icons of faith, belief and basically social value as a precursor to aggression affiliated with al Qaeda.

    There was one other anecdotal reporting in Libya of an al Qaeda flag flying over a courthouse in Benghazi. But, the best this can be considered is anecdotal and not USA intelligence as to what was occurring inside the courthouse and the official Transition Council denied involvement.

    Published: 11.01.11, 14:10 / Israel News
    Flag seen flying alongside Libyan national flag (click here) but National Transitional Council denies any involvement. Interim rulers name US-educated engineering professor as Libya's new prime minister....

    I have absolutely no doubt al Qaeda was involved with the Libyan rebels. I am quite sure they armed the rebels. We have witnessed the al Qaeda military presence in a way that is more vicious than most of the regional rebels carry out. Al Qaeda intervention is easy to identify. They are far more virulent attacks.

    Was al Qaeda responsible for the September 11th attacks on the USA Consulate in Benghazi? My understanding is the jury is still out on that. I do believe Secretary Clinton has a classified investigation to these facts. Personally, I don't think there is anything al Qaeda about the attacks on the Consulate except the date of the attacks. Most of those involved in the attacks are identified and they are Libyans once involved in the revolution but a spin off group. No one has those answers, no one had the knowledge to the reason for the attacks that day they happened and how Ayotte can state she is concerned about the words of Ambassador Rice with so much unknown except talking points from USA intelligence is nothing more than tainted politics.

    If Ms. Ayotte wants to put herself forward as a superior knowledge to the evidence and events with Benghazi, then I have to ask where she is getting her focus except from sensational politics. There is no reason for the circus. There sincerely isn't. No one is happy about a dead Ambassador and three other American agents, but, to somehow spin this into an attack regarding Ambassador Rice is nonsense. Pure nonsense and sensationalism.

I hope Former Senator Dole is feeling better.

He was always regarded with respect as a US Senator and always regarded others in the same way.

Sorry to hear he isn't feeling well. Both he and his wife have given their lives to the USA in service of one kind or another.

I do believe his passion for "The Veteran" was expressed in the completion of The World War II Memorial. Of course, Senator Dole had paralysis in his right hand from a war injury. He frequently carried a pen in it to distract from his difficulty. The holidays are coming so I hope he returns home soon to enjoy them.

Same 'ole, same 'ole. No real solutions, just finger pointing.

Gov. Jeb Bush speaks during the A-Plus Plan rally April 5, 1999, (click here) at the Capitol in Tallahassee. The program - grading schools based on the results of standardized testing - and a statewide voucher plan.

Children are political soft targets. Everyone would like to hand the future of their children to a school system that churns out A+ students, but, that isn't realistic, now is it?

The fact of the matter is there is a lot wrong in the USA that impact children, including their school work, but teachers and teacher unions are not the problem, just a convenient scapegoat.

I really don't believe Jeb Bush has ever had anything to offer to children, certainly no solutions for their learning. The only thing he ever offered was a public 4 year old kindergarten which was a break for working parents. Other than that his theoretical educational reforms have become nothing but finger pointing and blame. Let's face it, when a politician hangs his hat on education and gets no real results, someone other than himself is to blame after all.

I have to laugh, when he started his 4 year old kindergarten he stated the learning curve for children is optimal long before the age of 5. Yet. He regards Headstart as menace rather than an opportunity to start a child's education young. If the idea doesn't come out of the Republican Play Book with the word "Privatization" written all over it then it is a bogus idea.

...“We need (click here) to have a teacher evaluation system that is based on teachers being professionals, not part of some collective trade union bargaining process,” said Bush, chairman of the Foundation....

None of the Florida teacher evaluation changes have proven to be fair. As a matter of fact a Florida judge has found them unethical and written and implemented outside the law. Bush has nothing to offer for 2016 except ideology. There is nothing here to debate. Children don't learn in a bubble.

The Giant Tortoises have started their annual migration.

They don't go very far by human standards, but, they do migrate around a volcano. They cause a little bit of worry when they do that. It is a guy thing.

NOV 28, 2012
...Although (click here) giant tortoises are able to survive for up to one year without nourishment, they nevertheless wander for large distances searching for food. But only the fully grown animals migrate- up to 10 kilometers, the researchers say – while the young tortoises stay year round in the lowlands. The reason for this and the question of why the animals don’t rest during the dry season are not known yet....

Is there something the world needs to know about the Israeli undeclared nuclear program?

Is that suppose to change something? It isn't like Israel is stating they have genocidal intentions with Iran, is it? What exactly is the point of hacking into the IAEA site? News? For the sake of saying it can be done? Like, what is the purpose?

The ceasefire is still holding. Oh, could it be Palestine is seeking statehood at the UN this week? I suppose the autopsy of Mr. Arafat could move that along, too. 

Were any any of the hackers found and indicted on something? We can only hope there will actually be justice for the crime. I don't consider hacking into the IAEA a heroic act. That would not be my first thought.

BY Amrutha Gayathri
November 28 2012 6:15 AM

The U.N. nuclear watchdog (click here) Tuesday acknowledged that one of its servers had been hacked, after the hackers posted the stolen data online earlier this week.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said a previously unknown anti-Israeli group called Parastoo — meaning the swallow bird in Farsi and a common name for girls in Iran — had posted the contact details of more than 100 nuclear experts on the group's website three days ago.
A statement accompanying the contact details asked the experts, whose names were published, to sign a petition demanding an "open investigation" into Israel's undeclared nuclear weapons program. The U.N. agency is currently investigating Iran’s alleged nuclear program.

With any luck the Jersey Shore will be back to normal by summer.

Workers (click here) have closed a breach in the barrier island at the base of the Mantoloking Bridge where Barnegat Bay met the Atlantic Ocean here after Hurricane Sandy pummeled the Jersey Shore last week. 11/5/12 (Andrew Mills/The Star-Ledger)